Laying on the massage table, in the forested, open-air, spa treatment room at Ottley’s Plantation Inn on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, a rustling sound in the mango trees made me look up.
There sat a green vervet monkey, a common site on the island. The masseuse groaned with annoyance, continuing the massage. Monkeys to St. Kittitians are like squirrels to Americans. Overly abundant pests.
But I, of course, found it absolutely charming.
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The monkey stared down at me for a few minutes, perhaps wondering why a middle-aged American was getting so blissed out by Aveda skin-scrubbing lotions and warm towels. But then he quickly lost interest, scampering back to the adjoining rain forest.
It was one of those authentic St. Kittitian moments that is likely to happen at Ottley’s, a small and charming inn about 10 minutes north of the airport, comfortably away from the beach resort/cruise ship docking area.
Ottley’s is a renovated 18th century sugar plantation. Its 23 rooms and cottages convey charm, with details like stone walls, big wooden doors and English colonial decor. In our room, there were no TVs or clocks. The phones had cords. Ottley’s isn’t a place you go for sleek amenities.
But it is a place you go for a historic, local feel, and a treat-you-like-family staff. The owners (two American families) are always on-site, and they genuinely enjoy getting to know their guests. One owner, a sweet, 70-something history buff named Art, sang a little “Good morning” song to us at breakfast each day.
The adjacent rainforest also makes Ottley’s special. Short and easy hiking tours are given by Ottley’s co-owner, Marty Lowell, a former botanist, who provides interesting and humor-filled information on the hour-long tour. Kids will especially love the mid-tour bamboo art sculpture, and the palm tree that shoots water.
While I wouldn’t recommend Ottley’s for families with boisterous young children because of it’s quiet, older vibe, families stay here all the time and love it. Their kids like run across the wide open grass areas on the inn’s 35-acre landscaped grounds, or catch a glimpse of the monkeys that sometimes wander around early in the morning (or peep in on the spa clients). There’s a small, simple pool and free wi-fi.
Families who are more into a resort, or want to spend a lot of time on the beach and pool, might prefer staying at the St. Kitts Marriott and The Royal Beach Casino, or the still-being-built Kittitian Hill development.
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But for an authentic and historic St. Kitts feel, and some of the friendliest hosts I’ve ever met on a Carribean island, this is your place.
Even if you don’t stay here, come for dinner one night. Ottley’s restaurant served some of the best food we had on the island. Truly, everything on the menu was delicious, but nothing topped the perfectly grilled lobster tail, served with just the right amount of butter. Then try a scoop of pistachio ice cream for dessert. Like the Ottley’s itself, it’s something different, and something special.